Toubab, toubab !
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Toubab, toubab !
I am in Senegal, near Casamance.
Sixmille, my first photo project, which follows the daily life of a group of young African rappers for a year, is barely finished when I find myself in Africa.
For a year, I listened to their stories from the bush, I observed their way of acting, I tried to understand their way of thinking. The desire to see with my own eyes what they were talking about was bubbling up inside me.
When we arrived at the Dakar airport, we got into a black van, drove through the city and out. We drove for several hours through an arid and dull landscape. I was expecting travel agency landscapes, sceneries with colors in vibrancy +67. But what I see, it is red sand and bushes. The proximity of the desert. And this heat that sticks to your seat, this film of sweat that will become your second skin. My eyes scan and record. Almost 4K. The smell of the fishes taken out of water for too long. We arrive, finally. It’s dark, I can’t see anything around us except the big house of grey concrete blocks. The headlamps are of exit. We settle down inside, on the ground and we are brought a big tray of rice with fish balls. We eat to our hunger, sourna. The oppressive feeling of never being able to be alone overwhelms me, of having become a curiosity, of fleeing from these children running after me shouting “toubab! toubab! toubab!”. Every day, just before 7pm, night falls and everyone goes home to break up with the fasting. This is where my wandering begins, where I finally capture the atmosphere of this land. This project is a month and a half of confrontations between myself and my European mental constructions. It is 3 weeks of Ramadan in a house without running water or electricity, lost in the middle of nowhere and 3 weeks in the suburbs of Dakar. It’s a language I don’t understand. It’s long trips all over the country to visit my aunt’s family. It’s thiéboudiène every other day. It is the constant looks, intrigued or suspicious of my whiteness. It is this conception of sharing and community that seems innate in them.
Toubab means white skinned person in wolof.